You will be reading about writing strategies to improve your paragraph structure and cueing techniques to make the flow of your writing more cohesive. 

This week’s discussion board will look at Paragraphing techniques by other writers and analyze the ways in which other writers effectively use topic sentences and transitions. Understanding these techniques will go far in helping you draft strong paragraphs, as well as making you more effective in peer-reviewing. 

Exercise 13.3 on Page 526

Turn to Patrick O’Malley’s essay in Chapter 7, and read paragraphs 4–7 with the following questions in mind: Does all the material in each paragraph seem to be related? Do you feel a sense of closure at the end of each paragraph? Does the last sentence offer the most important or significant or weighty information in the paragraph?

Exercise 13.4 on Page 527

Turn to Jessica Statsky’s essay in Chapter 6. Underline the topic sentence (the first sentence) in paragraphs 3 and 5. Consider how these sentences help you anticipate the paragraph’s topic and method of development.

Make sure that your answers are detailed and discussion driven. Don’t just respond with an I agree or disagree, but analyze the effectiveness of the author’s writing. 

by even more rapid means, there has been a sharp renewal of interest in the history of the fourteenth-century calamity. With new perspective, students are investigating its manifold effects: demographic, economic, psychological, moral and religious. — William langer, “The Black Death” As a reader would expect, Langer divides his essay into explanations of the research into these five effects, addressing them in the order in which they appear in the forecasting statement.

ExErcisE 13.2

Turn to Patrick O’Malley’s essay in Chapter 7, and underline the forecasting statement in paragraph 2. Then skim the essay. Notice whether O’Malley takes up every point he mentions in the forecasting statement and whether he sticks to the order he promises readers. How well does his forecasting statement help you follow his essay? What suggestions for improvement, if any, would you offer him?

Paragraphing Paragraph cues as obvious as indentation keep readers on track. You can also arrange material in a paragraph to help readers see what is important or significant. For example, you can begin with a topic sentence, help readers see the relationship between the previous paragraph and the present one with an explicit transition, and place the most important information toward the end.

Paragraph indents signal related ideas. One paragraph cue — the indentation that signals the beginning of a new  paragraph — is a relatively modern printing convention. Old manuscripts show that paragraph divisions were not always marked. To make reading easier, scribes and printers began to use the symbol ¶ to mark paragraph breaks, and later, indenting became common practice. Indenting has been abandoned by most online and business writers, who now distinguish one paragraph from another by leaving a line of space between paragraphs. Paragraphing helps readers by signaling when a sequence of related ideas begins and ends. Paragraphing also helps readers judge what is most important in what they are reading. Writers typically emphasize important information by placing it at the two points in the paragraph where readers are most attentive — the beginning and the end. You can give special emphasis to information by placing it in its own paragraph.

ExErcisE 13.3

Turn again to Patrick O’Malley’s essay in Chapter 7, and read paragraphs 4–7 with the  following questions in mind: Does all the material in each paragraph seem to be related?  Do you feel a sense of closure at the end of each paragraph? Does the last sentence offer the most important or significant or weighty information in the paragraph?


Within its broad traditionalism and anonymity,  however,  variations and distinctions developed.

Regionally,  too,  distinctions were introduced into quilt making through the interesting process of renaming.

 Finally,  out of such regional and other variations come individual, signed achievements.

Quilts,  then,  were an outlet for creative energy, a source and emblem of sisterhood and solidarity, and a graphic response to historical and political change.

Sometimes the first sentence of a paragraph serves as a transition, and a subsequent sentence states the topic, as in the following example:

What a convenience, what a relief it will be, they say, never to worry about how to dress for a job interview, a romantic tryst, or a funeral!

 Convenient, perhaps, but not exactly a relief.  Such a utopia would give most of us the same kind of chill we feel when a stadium full of Communist-bloc athletes in identical sports outfits, shouting slogans in unison, appears on TV. Most people do not want to be told what to wear any more than they want to be told what to say. In Belfast recently four hundred Irish Republican prisoners “refused to wear any clothes at all, draping themselves day and night in blankets,’’ rather than put on prison uniforms. Even the offer of civilian-style dress did not satisfy them; they insisted on wearing their own clothes brought from home, or nothing.  Fashion is free speech, and one of the privileges, if not always one of the pleasures, of a free world. — alison lurie, The Language of Clothes

Occasionally, whole paragraphs serve as transitions, linking one sequence of paragraphs with those that follow, as in the following:

Yet it was not all contrast,  after all.  Different as they were  — in background, in personality, in underlying aspiration — these two great soldiers  had much in common. Under everything else,  they were marvelous fighters.  Furthermore,  their fighting qualities were really very much alike. — Bruce catton, “Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts”

ExErcisE 13.5

Turn to Jessica Statsky’s essay in Chapter 6 and read paragraphs 3–7. As you read, underline the part of the first sentence in paragraphs 4, 5, and 7 that refers to the previous paragraph, creating a transition from one to the next. Notice the different ways Statsky creates these transitions. Consider whether they are all equally effective.

Positioning the Topic sentence Although topic sentences may occur anywhere in a paragraph, stating the topic in the first sentence has the advantage of giving readers a sense of how the paragraph is likely to be developed. The beginning of the paragraph is therefore the most common position.

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